Halton House Open Day

The morning of the 1st September dawned bright and sunny, rather better than forecast or hoped, for the Halton House annual Open Day.

The first arrivals, bright and early at 0830 were a particularly fantastic and engaging bunch of Servicemen Awaiting Trade Training (SATTs) who played their part in enabling the day to happen. Rather than dictating, I asked for volunteers for the various tasks. They divided themselves spontaneously into the two groups required: boys to car parking, girls to tour guiding in the House and were allocated their luminous bibs and information leaflets accordingly.

The next group were our dedicated group of volunteer civilian guides and researchers. Of particular mention are Group Captain (Retired) Min Larkin and Mrs Trixie Brabner, both long standing members of the Heritage Committee, who also devoted much of their time to the planning of the event. Enough of the tour guiding team gave up their Sunday to afford us a knowledgeable guide in each room, as did a group of fundraisers who ran bric-a-brac and RAFA merchandise stalls.

At 1000 the doors opened to visitors from the general public. Over the course of the day we received around 2,000 visitors and raised over £1,000 in donations. As a publicly owned building we are not allowed to charge entry to members of the public, so the Heritage Committee relies on generosity for its funding. This now seems an opportunity to quash the popular myth that the Rothschild family still have a stake in the estate. Total bunkum! The War Office, now the MOD, bought the House and land outright in 1918 from Alfred Rothschild’s nephew who had inherited it.

Visitors seemed to enjoy themselves, some were happy to just wander and read the information boards, others chatted or questioned the guides and SATTs. One of the questions we weren’t expecting to pop up was the method and installation date of the heating system. Even more surprisingly, 2 visitors asked this same question independently of one another! It is the original under floor vents, incorporated during the build, completed in 1883. Perhaps the question was inspired by the 31 feet high ceiling in the Main Salon, with its decorative, domed skylight. Plenty of other visitors were marginally confused by the Billiard Room containing a large desk and the Ladies Boudoir containing the billiard table, the only original piece of furniture from Rothschild’s era.

Once tired out from looking around the house, visitors were able to purchase cream teas or hot baguettes on the terrace and ESS put on a great spread. This is another example of a contribution that made the day work. From our SATTs, to the members of Police and Security Flight who directed them, to the volunteer guides and the (thankfully unused) First Responders, everyone mucked in and enabled members of the local community to experience the beautiful house.

For those who missed out on the day, keep an eye out for the publicity and signage next year. If you are inspired to look at other stately homes in the area, go to www.heritageopendays.org.uk which celebrates England’s fantastic architecture and culture by offering free access to places that are usually closed to the public or charge admission.

For further information on Halton House email trenchard63@btinternet.com